Until 2012, Plano was home to a unique attraction: the Cockroach Hall of Fame Museum.
“It is not the Smithsonian,” as owner Michael Bohdan liked to say – but it was an interesting enough oddity to merit appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “The View,” as well as mentions on websites like Atlas Obscura and Roadside America.
You had to know where to look for it. The museum was part of the Pest Shop, a small do-it-yourself shop that sold extermination products for getting rid of pests in your home – ants, mice, roaches, rats and more. (The shop is still located at the corner of Custer and 15th Street, under new ownership.)
When the museum was open, visitors were treated to exhibits like the Bates Roach Motel office, which featured a roach dressed in a housecoat and wig that moved along a track from the office to Room 1 with a tiny knife in its hand, and a collection of “celebrity” roaches with names like Elvis, David Letterroach and Liberoachi.
The museum even got a mention on Weekend Update on “Saturday Night Live” in 2010.
“A man in Texas has opened the Cockroach Hall of Fame Museum that features collections of the dead bugs in tutus and sunglasses,” Seth Meyers said during the news parody segment. “Just because you call it a museum inside your head doesn’t mean you’re not just a crazy [fool] with a glue gun.”
Michael is a good sport about the jokes – he sent Seth Meyers a t-shirt – but he’s also truly an expert on cockroaches and other critters. He earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
When the museum was open, Michael enjoyed greeting thousands of visitors each year and answering questions, always sporting his green felt fedora dotted with the carcasses of 14 cockroaches. He still calls himself “Cockroach Dundee.”
As one reviewer wrote on Roadside America about Michael, “He’ll stop mid-convo (talking about his old ‘Last Supper with roaches’ diorama) and help customers with problems with skunks, then hop right back into his old stories about his nationwide competitions for roach art.” Another remembers him handing out free samples of barbecue-flavored larvae.
The Cockroach Museum was a hidden treasure that many Plano residents didn’t know about. One resident, John Brooks, remembers first seeing Michael on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. Another lifelong resident, Ryan Dry, recalls first learning about the museum by way of an article about “oddities of the world,” with a mention of Plano’s cockroach museum. “I was shocked to learn it was half a block from my house!” he said.
The Pest Shop is still open and still helping customers who want to get rid of bugs in their homes. But alas, the Cockroach Hall of Fame Museum is no more. Michael Bohdan moved to Phoenix to retire but returned to Dallas a few years ago. He still has his cockroaches and hopes one day he can find a new home to display them.
“Most of the dressed-up cockroaches are still in their cases, stored in boxes,” he said. “It’s a shame that we had to close. I always thought my museum would have legs. It helped educate a lot of people and changed their perceptions about cockroaches.”
Excerpted from “Hidden History of Plano, Texas” (History Press, March 16, 2020) by Mary Jacobs, Jeff Campbell and Cheryl Smith. The book is available for purchase at the Interurban Railway Museum in downtown Plano and on Amazon. Proceeds from the book benefit the Plano Conservancy for Historic Preservation.